Social media marketing strategy has become a fundamental part of how marketers work, an undeniable platform that must be used to reach and connect with consumers. Its presence in the plans of marketers for the past decade has left no doubt of its potential, but do marketers really understand what consumers expect and what they need to do to get in touch with them?

Based on data from a recent study by Sprout Social that was based on an American sample, you can say no. The study confronted consumers with their expectations of what the brand is doing well on social media and what they want to see offered in “real” ways.

There are differences between one and the other. So, first and foremost, there is some imbalance between what marketers think is most important and what consumers expect. For the latter, the content is important. For brands, it’s the connection.

When consumers are asked how brands fare better on social networks, 47% say those with very good customer service do best on this channel. This point is the one that tops the ranking, ahead of those brands that connect with audiences (46%) or are transparent (44%).

Content is important, but not so much for consumers. 39% are those who talk about catchy content, followed by 33% who say they have a distinctive personality, or 28% who tell an attractive story. Those who are new to social networks (23%), who set trends (18%) or who influence popular culture (17%) are in the queue.

What Marketers Believe
The order of these points changes when marketers are asked what makes brands better on social media. Marketers themselves believe that the key is in engaging with the audience (48%), in engaging content (45%), and in transparency (42%).

In a way, you could say that they place more emphasis on content than consumers do. 37% say they must have an interesting story, another 37% must be the first to join a social network, and 31% must have a distinctive personality. Only 35% are key to strong customer service on social media, which is precisely the point that matters most to consumers themselves.

Customer service is the key
Second, all of this creates a sticky situation. That distance between what some and others believe about customer service on social media is quite problematic, especially considering that consumers also use staying with one company before another as a benchmark.

When asked about the steps brands can take on social media to win them over their competitors, 47% of consumers surveyed say they need to answer their questions – customer service – in a timely manner that is understandable.

There are differences by age group, but the point remains consistent. 41% of consumers between 18 and 23 years of age, another 41% of consumers between 24 and 39, 46% of 40 to 55 year olds and 60% of 56 to 74 year olds see it that way.

The next important point is to show that you understand what the consumer wants. It is generally chosen by 43%, but there are differences here by age. For 50% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 23 and 45% of consumers between the ages of 24 and 39, it is basic, but for those aged 56 to 74 it drops to 41 and for those aged 40 to 55 to 37. Behind these points stand out from those who create content that is culturally relevant (39%) or who create content that has an educational impact on their products and services (31%).